tick, tick... BOOM! Review: A Tribute to Jonathan Larson
Updated: Nov 23, 2021
tick, tick... BOOM! was released on Netflix last Friday. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut is an adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s off-broadway musical of the same name. The movie follows Jon (Andrew Garfield) who, as he puts it, is the future of musical theatre. Approaching his 30th birthday and a workshop for the musical he spent the last eight years writing, Jon is forced to cope with getting older, rejection, financial insecurity, the AIDS crisis and what his future holds.
tick, tick... BOOM! was originally a semi-autobiographical rock monologue turned off Broadway play by the late Jonathan Larson, most known for the creation of Rent. The film adaptation turns the three person play into a full blown Hollywood musical, with an ensemble cast- Vanessa Hudgens, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesús, Joshua Henry. The movie also featured cameos from musical theatre legends André De Shields, Alex Lacamoire, Robyn Goodman, Phillipa Soo, and more.
The movie, like the play, is narrated by Jon’s internal monologue, allowing the audience insight to the world that Jon sees him and his fellow struggling artists find living in. This world is the only one Jon can imagine himself living in. As his best friend and girlfriend begin to explore occupations other than that of a starving artist, Jon is forced to reconcile with the fact that his dreams may be out of reach.
Ultimately tick, tick... BOOM!, is a story that resonates with young artists. Even though the audience of the Superbia workshop, Stephen Sondheim included, thought Jon’s musical was excellent he couldn’t get it produced. Even though the ticking gets louder, Jon ends the movie ready to “write the next one”. He is reminded by those closest to him that he can’t waste the time he has left, however long that may be.
The dramatic irony here is that the real Jonathan Larson died at the age of 36, hours before the opening of Rent. Like many great artists, Larson recognized the fleeting nature of life. Jon doesn’t fear death, he fears dying not having done enough.
The cast and crew of tick, tick... BOOM! made a wonderful celebration of Jonathan Larson. It’s stellar cast gave performances that felt like live theatre performances without distracting from the weight of the piece.